Sep 26, 2018 Gerda Verbickaite
Modern Meadow has been pushing the traditional leather industry to the edge by creating biofabricated materials from growing cells into a new type of material inspired by leather. We had an opportunity to have a chat with Andras Forgacs, the co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow and get a sneak peek into some topics what he might be bringing up at Slush this year!
Growing from an Idea to a Real Biofabricated Material
It all started years ago, when Andras started his first biofabrication company Organovo, which pioneered in bioprinting human tissue and organs to help medical research. From there he realized that the next possible step could be the biofabrication of animal materials: this is how the idea for Modern Meadow was born.
Initially the concept spiralled in both material and food industries, but it was important for Modern Meadow to find their focus early on to be able to create high quality product. They saw their biggest potential in creating technology which could grow cells into biomaterials beyond our imagination. This is why Modern Meadow also decided to open their headquarters in New York, the center of fashion, design and biotechnology.
Ever since then Modern Meadow has been steadily growing, having raised $53.5 million in funding, of which $40 million was raised from Series B round in 2016, led by Horizons Ventures and Iconiq Capital and steadily moving towards their first bioleather – Zoa’s™ release.
What’s the Secret Sauce of the Bioleather?
Biofabricated leather isn’t vegan leather; it is a new form of animal-free leather, inspired by nature, but grown by the hand of human. To put it simply, Modern Meadow takes proteins and grows them into collagen, which is the main connecting tissue found in mammal skin. Then they assemble the proteins in various ways, to create different types of materials, creating new type of biomaterials.
While there are companies providing animal-free leather, Modern Meadow is unique in having created a completely brand new material, with challenges, impossible to predict. Being an innovator means that there aren’t others to get a point of reference from. Instead, you have to come up with own solutions from the ground up.
According to Andras, one of the bigger problems is scaling the production of biofabricated materials without sacrificing any aspects of its quality or increasing the cost of production. It is of high importance for Andras that their materials meet not only of the highest aesthetic standards, but as well the the most optimal manufacturing process and maintain increasing their sustainability footprint.
Spinning Away from Animals into a Sustainable and Responsible Material Production
Sustainable product is at the core of Modern Meadow thinking, affecting what they do from design process to production and delivery. By producing materials without any real animals they are able to reduce water, energy and land consumption and as they keep developing their technology, they will continue to reduce that number, while increasing efficiency. Modern Meadow also believes to be able to reduce transportation costs by being able to execute more steps of production in the same facility. According to Andras, all these steps can translate into a tremendously positive environmental impact in the long run.
Biofabricated Leather Has a Potential to Completely Change the Perception of Fashion
Fashion industry is heavily dependent on the materials available to them, controlling what designers are able to create. However, Andras believes that biofabricated materials can change all that. While traditional materials such as leather, wool, silk, and cotton have their limitations to the texture, thickness, stretch, in the future biofabricated materials will be able to create materials beyond our imagination, such as transparent leather. This means, that designers can suddenly think beyond the boundaries created by natural and synthetic material capabilities and instead bring the design thinking into the material. “The core idea is not to create a material indistinguishable from leather,” Andras says. “I would consider that a failure of the imagination, considering the possibilities.”
Modern Meadow is currently still working on launching their first bioleather Zoa™, which recently has been nominated by Beazley Designs by London Design Museum’s in the design category. As Zoa™ will come to the market, with time they plan to create more various materials beyond anything we have seen.
Don’t miss your chance to see Andras in the deep north at Slush18 and grab your ticket!
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